Six weeks have passed since the death of 4-year-old Skyler Wilson, of Mount Airy, that shocked the Yadkin Valley region and made splashy headlines across the country.
Behind the headlines and left in the wake of the storm is Sherry Bowman, the lone employee of Dr. Joseph Wilson at Affordable Wellness Chiropractic, Acupuncture and Nutrition of Mount Airy. Wilson and his wife, Jodi Ann Wilson, are accused in their son’s death, each charged with murder.
Bowman said the tragedy has taken a toll on her emotionally, mentally, and even professionally. She sees the smiling face of Skyler Wilson and has even taken to drawing that now familiar, toothy grin of the late boy that has adorned social media since early January.
“I’ve been crying on and off for six weeks; I’m having nightmares too, at least one a week,” Bowman explained. “This is something I’ll never forget and never get over and when it all comes out, you’ll see why.”
Bowman has had communication with the Wilson family since Joseph and Jodi Ann were arrested in the Jan. 9 death of their son. She said that she is aware of the status and welfare of all four Wilson children, but declined to elaborate.
During a recent interview, Bowman repeatedly declined to answer questions for concerns of doing harm to the case; she wants justice for Skyler. “I don’t want to say or do anything to jeopardize the case.”
During her four years working for Joseph Wilson at Affordable Wellness, she said she was the only front desk employee despite information to the contrary found on the business’s website. Jodi Ann Wilson had been the initial receptionist when the practice opened and there had been another before Bowman took over, but for most of that time it was just the two of them, she said.
Bowman said that there has been confusion since Jodi Wilson had been previously identified as the front desk employee of Affordable Wellness and some have thought Bowman may be Wilson, “out on bail and looking for a job,” Bowman said Monday.
There has been so much interest in the case that she said people have been trying to reach her by phone, social media, through her child, and even via a drive by visit of her home. She is confused by the morbid fascination in such a sad affair. “There’s no scoop here and there is no dirt to a 4-year-old getting killed,” Bowman said.
“Trust me, you don’t want to know,” she said. “I’ll have a lot more to say after the trial.”
The next court date for Joseph and Jodi Ann Wilson is set for Superior Court on March 6 in Dobson, but Bowman suggested that the trial could be delayed. She said she was told by the Wilson family that the defendants are on their fourth lawyer and appeared to be on track to find their fifth one soon.
She got to know all five of the Wilson children — Skyler and his younger brother had been adopted by the Wilson family, and she knew that they had fostered other children and had taken classes on being foster parents.
Joseph Wilson, she said, conducted his practice in a way “that was a little too holistic from my perspective, but that’s his choice.” Bowman never worked with Jodi Ann Wilson but described her in some broad terms familiar to local residents when describing a New Yorker, noting she was a fast talker and a little “high-strung.”
She advised the Wilson family to retain legal counsel to deal with the affairs of Affordable Wellness, Dr. Wilson’s practice on West Pine Street in Mount Airy. They told her that the practice was closed for good. Affordable Wellness was not a chain or franchise location, and she pointed out that there is a potential HIPAA minefield waiting inside.
“I asked (the family) what was the plan? It would be a HIPAA violation (to throw the medical records out) so I suggested talking to a lawyer about what to do with medical records,” Bowman explained.
Bowman said she has no knowledge of self-professed parenting guru Nancy Thomas and her for-profit parenting and counseling solutions — according to court records, Skyler died after suffering injuries sustained in a practice called “swaddling,” in which he was allegedly tightly bound up in sheets and other bed clothing and unable to move. Thomas is a proponent of the practice, and other controversial parenting methods.
Bowman said she was not aware of the methods or practices that Thomas was extolling. “I didn’t know anything about her methods, and I assume she was just their counselor.”
Court documents said that Bowman “knew from previous conversations with Joseph Wilson that the Wilsons had recorded Zoom counseling sessions with Nancy Thomas… and knew Joseph Wilson would search parenting techniques and exorcisms while at work.”
Joseph Wilson, in court filings, identified that those swaddling technique were used by Jodi Wilson on the day of the incident, Jan. 5, where young Skyler was swaddled, and oxygen was cut off to his brain.
Surry County detectives were told at Brenner Children’s Hospital that the boy was already brain dead on Jan. 6 from the incident the day before; he did not pass away until Jan. 9.
Search warrants for the Wilson home and Affordable Wellness said detectives were looking for media and evidence “related to pouching, swaddling, and/or Nancy Thomas parenting.”
Thomas is not a doctor or therapist, and she states that in her writing and her website. She said she has learned about parenting and what works through years of experience with troubled kids with “attachment disorder.”
The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children held a task force on attachment theory and in 2006 wrote, “Assessment for attachment problems requires considerable diagnostic knowledge and skill, to accurately recognize attachment problems and to rule out competing diagnoses.”
“A diagnosis of attachment disorder should never be made simply based on a child’s status as maltreated, as having experienced trauma, as being a foster or adoptive child. We believe that it is important to take a stand on harmful or questionable practices and theories, while encouraging increased dialogue and research in these areas.”
One tenant of attachment therapy is the concept of “re-parenting” where a child is treated as though they were younger than they are. The theory suggests kids could be treated like a baby or a toddler in an attempt to create a new bond between child and caregiver to replace those that were not formed with their birth parent or caregiver.
Court documents in the Wilson case said a woman identified as a former foster mother for Skyler’s and his brother had raised concerns to Surry County Department of Social Services for the treatment they were receiving at the hands of the Wilsons. The search warrant said, “Jodi Wilson had discussed with her pouching, swaddling, food restriction, the gating of Skyler in a room for excessive alone time, and the exorcisms of both children.”
North Carolina has banned swaddling of children as of 2017 in child care facilities and group homes as there is a danger in the poor execution of swaddling. The American Academy of Pediatrics said care givers should stop swaddling a child, “As soon as your baby shows any signs of trying to roll over.”
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